Joining us at Standard Goods for July Art Walk as our musical guest is DON. They are a group hailing from the University of Washington. they play a genre they refer to as Future Soul- a style of music derived from R&B, Jazz, Hip Hop, Electronic, and Alternative. They are comprised of Pop and Jazz musicians mostly from UW's music program- but they hail from as close to home as Tacoma, Washington and as far away as Memphis, Tennessee. DON is fascinated with the R&B of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, as well as Fusion Jazz from the 70s & 80s. They try to combine the two. The result is something that is smooth & Pop-sensible, but improvised and experimental as well. Take a listen on their Spotify or Soundcloud. And come by the shop Thursday July 13th at 8:30 to hear them live!
DON recently released their debut EP, Thanks For All The Help about a month ago. It was a long time coming! It came on the heels of their victory at the UW Battle of the Bands-- the battle propelled them into the consciousness of some of the students at UW, and they got asked to open for Kero Kero Bonito and Mark Redito at an event thrown by the student radio station, Rainy Dawg Radio. After that, they were asked by the UW to play the annual Spring Show. Since then they have been playing gigs to promote the EP, and getting started on the next project.
Stefán Kubeja is one of the members of DON, we had a chance to talk more about what influences his style musically and learn a little bit about him. Read on!
Who or what are your top 3 inspirations/influences when it comes to your music?
My top three influences are:
1. Quincy Jones
3. Haitus Kaiyote
Quincy Jones is one of the most prolific music producers/writers of all time. His raw talent and knack for writing Jazz/Soul Fusion helped him craft songs that were innovative and at the same time entertaining. When he became a Pop producer, he wrote hit after hit, most famously for Michael Jackson. The thing about his Pop music, though, was that though he was good at making earworms, his music was always unconventional- whether he was using synths and samplers to get sounds that had never been used in Pop before, or using his Jazz fusion influence to write harmonies and chord progressions that were similarly foreign to the charts. This is why I love him- he wasn't ashamed to make popular music that was interesting, & perhaps more complex than his fanbase ever understood. I seek to emulate that.
Usher is a ball of raw talent. His vocal chops & dancing abilities make him a standout entertainer from his era. He captured the hearts of teenagers throughout the 90s & 2000s. Whenever I play a gig I keep Usher in my heart. That guy is magic.
Hiatus Kaiyote are a pretty unique group. They make this kind of music that takes influence from R&B and Soul, but also Math Rock and other complex music-- they make these songs that change time signatures, grooves & keys all over the place. Figuring out their songs is like a calculus problem-- every time I sit down to transcribe one of their songs I have to go to all my musician friends and hear their opinion on how the music is operating. I'm awestruck by their musicianship. Every member.
2. Where are you born; How long have you been living in Seattle?
I was born in New York City. I lived in Manhattan for the first few years of my life, but my parents & I ended up moving because they were young, too poor, & in their twenties. I often wonder what it would have been like had we stayed in NYC- but it wasn't meant to be. My parents needed money. We moved in Tacoma, Washington, where I lived until I graduated High School. Tacoma is a beautiful place. There's a lot of community in that little city. To this day, if I see someone on the UW campus and we both know the other is from Tacoma, we wave to each other, even if we've never spoken. Tacoma has had such a bad name for so many years that we feel like we have to support our own, no matter who they are-- Tacomans love to see other Tacomans succeed. After I graduated, I was admitted to UW, moved to Seattle, and I've been here ever since. I love it-- Seattle has a lot of musical history. There are things I would change-- but there's an arts community here that takes care of it's artists, and I want that to continue to flourish. I'm thankful for it every day.
3. Other than being a performance artist, what are your passions/hobbies?
I make visual art-- mostly collage based. I have a huge collection of vintage magazines from the 40s to the 90s where I take a lot of source material from. I make the vast majority of DON's album art/graphics. I also love to throw events: I co-created the UW Hip Hop Cypher, an organization/event that hosted Hip Hop shows and freestyle contests at Moksha, a clothing store on the AVE. We featured artists like Dave B & Nyles Davis. I'm a student at the UW where I'm majoring in English & minoring in music. I mess around a little bit with interior design. I'm learning photography. I'm also a collector of vintage video games.